Screenwriting is not for the weak of heart. Writing the next blockbuster to break into Sunset Blvd is no easy task, and the required applications to do the job often come with an expensive price tag. The film industry itself mostly forces you to use a specific formatting for your scripts and spend more than 200 bucks on an application that is not even that good.
Highland is the prime resource for screenwriters that use the Fountain syntax to write their screenplays. It’s a minimalist, almost distraction-free writing environment that is closer to iA Writer or Byword rather than any other screenwriting application. So if you have any interest in learning a little bit about the struggles to write down your favorite films or have no clue what is this Fountain thing, keep reading.
By now you probably heard of Markdown, right? It’s a popular plain-text editing syntax developed by John Gruber to make writing for the web easier. This article you’re reading was written in Markdown, for example, then converted to HTML for publishing in WordPress. We can say, generally speaking, that Fountain is the Markdown for screenwriters.
Before Markdown, anyone with the proper knowledge could still open up any text editor and type an article in HTML. The syntax just made things easier on the eye. Fountain, on the other hand, gave screenwriters a completely new opportunity: to write whole scripts in plain text.
This not only gave writers the chance to work on their screenplays for free, but also to write them down on any text editor while still respecting the industry standards. Wanna write an entire screenplay on TextEdit? Now you can.
If you get into trouble memorizing the syntax, you can download my TextExpander snippets and edit them as you please.
Open the way for Highland
Highland is a project recently released on Mac App Store after a long beta. It is created by the same team that brought us Fountain, which includes the renowned screenwriter John August. Highland is an application to edit and export screenplays using Fountain, PDF or FDX (the extension for Final Draft files, which is the Hollywood sweetheart). We’ll get into that. But now let’s talk about its gorgeous interface.
Write in a better environment
Highland has the cleanest interface among all screenwriting-specific applications. It has a sidebar with three simple options: Editor, Preview or Export. There’s a tiny page icon on the left corner to check your current page or jump to any other. If you may consider the option to go Full Screen, that’s all it offers initially.
Digging a little deeper, you can customize the fonts, colors and text width in the Editor panel. Highland comes with two really special fonts for screenwriters, the first one was announced earlier and is the Courier Prime. Hollywood has its reasons for Courier, and if that’s not the font, the producer won’t even touch your screenplay. But Courier is an outdated font, especially with all these Retina displays. Courier Prime is an update and you can read everything about it here.
Highland Sans is another beautiful typeface that comes for a refined editing experience, brand-new and made specially for the app. It looks so good that even with the option to change it to a more familiar font, I doubt to ever do it.
If you search a bit more, you’ll find that the application has a Dark Mode, which is also customizable and I truly recommend you to do try for some more pleasant colors. White characters on black canvas is so nineties.
Previewing, Converting and Exporting
Hollywood takes formatting very seriously and plain text doesn’t format everything automatically. Since its beta, Highland has been the go-to option to previewing and exporting your work into formats you could send to a producer, ones that would look nice enough that he wouldn’t grimace at your script and use it as a door holder. The official version keeps the great Preview mode and the two most important export formats: PDF and FDX.
Still, it is not all about writing in plain text and exporting to reliable formats for a presentation. It also goes the other way around. If you’re working on a script at Final Draft, have an urgent trip scheduled and can only carry your smartphone, you can convert your script to Fountain or plain text with Highland and keep writing in any plain text app.
But what if all you have is a PDF? Yes, it also converts selectable PDFs into editable files. So if you put your hands on a famous screenplay (those with a shot at the Oscars were available online a few months ago for the awards’ consideration), you may import it into Highland, change a few words and pretend to be the next Tarantino.
Now for the third act
If you’re an amateur or professional screenwriter, Highland and Fountain gift the vocation with the flexibility the modern world requires. It is a great environment to write your next film with an attractive price tag, but also a powerhouse of features that will help you shine in the screenwriting business.